Type: Trad, 60 ft
FA: Royal and Liz Robbins, Aug 1964. Direct Var. John Biddick
Page Views: 3,559 total · 18/month
Shared By: Peter Gram on Jul 18, 2002
Admins: Andrew Gram, Peter Gram, Greg Parker, Mike Madsen, Mark Rafferty

You & This Route

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Start on the southeast end of the spire (downhill, near the road). An unnecessary first bolt protects a direct start, or one can traverse in from 5 feet up on the left. Climb up the flake system with possible gear placements. Then follow 3 bolts through steep face to the top. New fixed anchors for a one-rope rappel.


4 bolts, nuts, #3 Camalot
This IS NOT A NEW ROUTE! This is what had always been known as the Robbins Route, even though he originallg came in from the side a little higher up. The locals wereclimbing this line in 1978. Some of the people that did it were Paul Muehl, Kevin Bein, Mike todd, Mark Smedley, Jim Black and myself.

We climbed it with what protection we could get naturally, since Royal Robbins didn't place any bolts on his first ascent lead. The pro was great and the lead could be scary, except fpe Paul Muehl who would climb it wearing Kmart brand tennis shoes ( he called them Kmarto's.

It was always the ethics of that group to raise your climbing skills and attitude to the level of the climb. Climb the climb in the same style of the first ascent, not to add any bolts. If you weren't at the climb's level wait till you were then come back. If a bolt was sincerely needed the first ascent people would tell others to add them if necessary. Or they were asked.

There are plenty of routes that can be done as FA's Go find a one. Aug 7, 2002
If 'Little Cat Feet' is the original Robbins route what route is on the opposite side of the rock that has the fixed pin? I thought that was the original Robbins route.

According to Arch, he and his friends toproped everything in the Needles so there are no first ascents left. Go to the Rushmore area? YOU go to the Rushmore area. Aug 15, 2003
Peter Gram
Portland, OR
Peter Gram   Portland, OR  
The route on the uphill side of Sandberg peak was FA by Paul Piana in 1971. The downhill side is the Robbins route. Aug 15, 2003
According to Piana's 'Touch the Sky' guide niether route starts or finishes the same as 'Little Cat Feet' so how exactly is 'Little Cat Feet' not a new route?

It seems that some of the 'locals' are attempting to claim the rock as well as their first ascent routes as their 'possesions'. That's a bit much don't you think? Anyone can claim they toproped something (Arch and his friends claim they toproped everything) but a first ascent is a lead isn't it?

How about some of the original first ascentionists do some route maintenance if they want to keep their routes original? There are plenty of pitons and 1/4" button heads that have been in place for years. When they did the first ascent those pieces were fresh and solid, they are suspect now, making the routes quite different from the first ascent. As a matter of fact, if the first ascentionists don't start replacing old pitons with bolts (something that is being done all over the country), I will. Aug 16, 2003
I don't mean to be rude; I respect the idea of wanting some anonymity. So, if the 'Anonymous Coward' chooses to remain anonymous, then so be it. But, I don't think I am alone when I ask: Who is making these comments? Aug 16, 2003
To answer Dan, I post annonymously (I'm sure if you try hard enough you will find my identity) because I want to focus on issues related to climbing and climbing ethics in the Needles rather than the personal/social politics that becomes part of comments posted by known personalities. Some people expect/demand respect for their opinions based upon their connection to the area or their climbing history in the area.

I don't think those are good reasons to respect opinions or so called climbing 'ethics' that, if adhered to, will limit construction of new routes and turn the area into a museum in honor of a few people who put up a few routes 20 or 30 years ago. Most of the old 'classic' routes that expose the climber to serious injury or groundfall are more dangerous now than when they were established because of the amount of time the old buttonheads and pins have been exposed to the elements. They need to be replaced with good bolts.

Everything changes, even Needle's climbing. If we don't want the area to become a museum we do need to 'loosen up' on the so called 'local ethics'.

(My humble opinion).

Aug 18, 2003
Dear Anonymous, I can respect the motives behind posting anonymously; it may be the only way to address issues without the politics getting involved, as you said, when they are always in such abundance. So to spark further discussion...I am not exactly for or against your suggestions: I would like to see more development and safer climbing in the Needles; however, there is something to be said about the Needles being a last bastion for run-out, traditional face climbing. Deciding which is more important for the area (and the future of the sport) is definitely something worth considering. Aug 18, 2003
In response to the last comment, I believe that there is enough room at the needles to have it all. Like many of you, I have climbed all over the country and have been to areas that are grid bolted with a sport climb every four feet down a wall and I simply don't see it happening in the needles, the rock doesn't lend itself to this practice.I certainly don't want to see any bolts added to climbs like Super Pin, Hairy Pin, Needles Eye, etc.... I think that these climbs should retain their mystique and be there for those climbers who have the skills and necessary cool heads to climb at that level with little or no protection. On the other hand, I think that anonymous is right on the money when he/she says that at the time of many of the first ascents the quarter inch buttonhead was the best thing going and solid for the first ascentionist and very suspect now. A good example of this would be "Four Little Fishies". The first time I led this several years ago the old buttonheads were still there. This made an already serious climb (approximately 60 foot runout after the fourth bolt) more dangerous for me and others repeating this climb than early repeats of the route. We all know that there isn't an abundance of bolts on Needles climbs so it would be nice if the bolts that are present could be trusted. Also, have you ever noticed how crowded climbs like "Over Exposure", "Under Exposure", "Beyond the Door", "Lander Turkey Shoot", etc... are? It's not just because these climbs are easy to get to, but because they are relatively safe.Just the other day several of us were behind the dam doing "Pool and Pie", "Pretzels and Beer", and I also did the 5.7 or 5.8 immediately to the left of "Pool and Pie" of course it was approximately 100 to 110 feet long with two bolts on it. Then I did the 5.10? to the immediate left, it was much safer, it had three bolts on it!! Now, tell me where the harm would be in someone adding a couple of bolts to these climbs, they would certainly still be spicy but the groundfall potential could be removed and you would suddenly have a very nice little area that could accomodate several visiting climbers at once. I'm sure that will stir the pot. As for new route development, here's an idea, let's focus our attention on the quality of the line and not so much as to how it was established. Let the games begin. Peace. Aug 18, 2003
Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
Andrew Gram   Salt Lake City, UT  
There is plenty of potential to put up safe new moderate routes in the Needles without retrobolting existing routes. You may have to walk a few miles, but a little exercise never hurt anyone.

Rebolting on the other hand is desperately needed in the Needles. I'll try to replace the bolts on one climb every time I come back to the Needles. Perhaps we could start a feature where we post a list of climbs desperately in need of rebolting. Aug 19, 2003
Dan- Thanks for the mail and the comments. I tried to reply but for some reason it won't go through, didn't want you to think I was blowing you off. My family and I just left the needles the other day. I'm a school teacher in Wichita, Kansas but I hope to get back up for a few days this fall. Maybe we could get together and climb. Aug 19, 2003
I've looked at the route descriptions in Touch the Sky (Piana) and I think this is a new route. Where is the evidence that its not? Oct 4, 2004
Try this, climb to the top of sandberg peak and look in the register. Little cat feet is a new route, John Biddick and co. is responsible. The climb is classically undergraded at 5.8.

So if your wondering about the black hills climbing mistique being watered down with bolted cracks, grid bolting and top down needles routes, wonder no more.

Pick up Alpinist 7 and read the Jim Beyer interview about Paris Girl. Oct 10, 2004
Alpinist 8 has the jim beyer article about paris girl and unnecessary bolts, read it and weep. Oct 10, 2004
So Allister,

Are you saying that "On Little Cat Feet" is a bolted crack? Or that its grid bolted? Or that it was done top down?

How about adding a link to the article you're recommending? Oct 11, 2004
I guess thats it, discussion over. On Little Cat Feet, 5.9 _b is b_ anew route, and a nice one at that. Oct 21, 2004
Little Cat Feet is what it is, I was not there when they put it in. I have climbed the route. It is short and close to the road. The next to the road experience usually turns into pedestrian gawkers and little kids asking for autographs. Climbing is right. Preserve it.PSThe more you climb the stronger you are. Oct 23, 2004
Tony B
Around Boulder, CO
Tony B   Around Boulder, CO
Before reading this debate my thoughts were that this is a great route just because the spire looks so improbable. The proximity to the car makes it a good route for the beginning or end of the day when you have "10 minutes left." Climb up on excellent friction to go slightly left to a gear placement, then up a line of bolts to the summit. I had guessed the route to be 5.8+ but am not very familiar with the local grades, plus it was one of my first routes there.

As for the debate, I'm not local and I don't know crap about it, but it if is retro-bolted, it should be stripped and repaired. If it is a F.A., then good job. Jul 30, 2006
After all that above......This route is good. Clipping last bolt took some balance! Jul 22, 2007
Poughkeepsie, NY
rgold   Poughkeepsie, NY
Looks like the Robbins route to me. I did it with Bob Kamps and Mark Powell, probably in 1965. The different starts are inconsequential either way and only constitute a few feet of the route. It is possible that where we stepped right at the top, the feline route bulldozes more directly up with the aid of bolted protection. This would make it at best a three-bolt variation with a 5.9 move or two, almost the same as the 1964 route but with perhaps a short section at the top, maybe four feet left of the Robbins route, which was done 38 years earlier with no bolts and is 5.8.

I'm almost positive Bob led the "Piana Route" the same day. I know for sure I climbed down it but that was with a belay from above.

Personally, I can't see putting in three bolts to create what is at most a minor variation as any kind of progress, but I'm pretty much a museum piece myself at this point. Back in the day, stepping a few feet to the side was called "routefinding." Now, with the line of bolts in place, it will be called "avoiding the crux." Oh well.

AC wrote, "Most of the old 'classic' routes that expose the climber to serious injury or groundfall are more dangerous now than when they were established because of the amount of time the old buttonheads and pins have been exposed to the elements. They need to be replaced with good bolts."

The comment does not in any way apply to the Robbins route on Sandberg Peak, which didn't have any fixed pins or bolts.

On the other hand, it is certainly valid for old 1/4" bolts. Fixed pins are a mixed bag, since in some cases equivalent or better protection is available with modern gear, and in other cases not. Jan 7, 2011
Eric Krantz
Black Hills
Eric Krantz   Black Hills
From Piana's Touch the Sky:

"Route 1 (5.8). Traverse left across the northeast face and climb the downhill ridge almost to the summit. Then step right to the final moves. FA: August 1964; Royal Robbins belayed by Liz Robbins." Jan 7, 2011
Tommy Layback
Sheridan, WY
Tommy Layback   Sheridan, WY
New guidebook/comic book calls this a 5.10b. What say you local folk? Aug 29, 2012